The internet has been abuzz with the news of a solar storm approaching the Earth today at the speed of 1.6 million kilometres. The storm is said to create a significant impact on the part of space that is dominated by the Earth’s magnetic field.
NASA had said that the satellite signals might be impacted because of this solar storm. However, for people living in the North and South poles, a beautiful view of the aurora borealis and aurora australis at night will be a plus.
What is a Solar Storm?
While the Sun might seem like a distant star, what happens on the Sun does not stay on the Sun. A solar storm occurs when the Sun emits huge amounts of energy in the form of solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which then create electrical charges and magnetic fields, that move towards the Earth. Solar storms can also be geomagnetic or be caused due to a Solar Particle Event (SPE).
A solar storm may peak for 6-12 hours and then gradually become less powerful over the next few days. Researchers have seen that the frequency of solar storms follow an 11-year cycle. They peak, they wither at almost the same point of time in 11 years.
Think of solar flares as a massive explosion on the Sun, whose effects can be felt on Earth as well because this explosion is as powerful as billions of nuclear bombs. They are like intense radiation.
What Effect Can the Storms Have on Earth?
The solar storms disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field. Which means it can cause disruption in satellite signals and electrical power grids. So think blackouts, TV outages, GPS blocks, no mobile network etc. We don’t know what will happen this year but back in 2011, China’s radio communications were disrupted due to a solar flare. Imagine how much economic damage that can cause!
However, not all solar storms are damaging. They impact the Earth only when they occur on the side that faces the Sun. You can be impacted by the solar flares only if you can see them. In the case of CMEs (large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that originate from the Sun), they can move in any direction but affect the Earth only when they are moving in its direction.
Due to events like these, all of us on Earth remember how we are a part of a massive cosmos, which affects us too in different ways from time to time. Every time a space event happens, the media does extensive reporting, the issue becomes trending on the social media and everyone starts talking about — why do you think? We think it’s because space is a mystery, where only a few of us have been; which continues to inspire curiosity and awe among all of us.
Which is your favourite space event or space effect? Tell us in the comments below!